The Ultimate Guide On Beheading Succulents

Ultimate Guide to Beheading Succulents

BEHEADING!? Relax…

It’s far from what it sounds. This post isn’t about some sort of capital punishment for succulents. Sure, it does sound gruesome and cruel, but nothing could be further from the truth. Beheading succulents isn’t as bad as you think!

You’ve probably heard of Mike, who lived for a whopping 18 months without a head! Mike was a chicken named by his owners after he became popular in the 1940s for refusing to die.

Except for bizarre cases like Mike’s, beheaded animals and humans always end up dead. No amount of surgery or medical antics can be employed to bring back life.

However, with succulent plants, beheading is a practice for rejuvenation and life continuity. What’s not to like about a healthy extended-living succulent baby?

Beheading succulent plant with tweezers
Beheading a Succulent Plant @juicyplants

What Is Beheading Succulents?

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Succulents are mainly grown as indoor ornaments to add charm and beauty to the home. When these beautiful succulent plants overgrow, become elongated due to insufficient light, or even get infested by pests, it’s time to bring in the guillotine.

In a nutshell, succulent beheading is chopping off the terminal head of a succulent. This results in a stem stump and the chopped terminal mother plant, which are very useful. This practice is mainly employed in plants with pronounced stems and rosette-shaped succulents.

Beheading succulents might take a bit of courage initially, but once you’ve done it, you’ll discover it’s a clever way to multiply your succulents and keep them gorgeous.

The following genera of succulents will respond well to beheading.

  • Graptopetalum
  • Echeveria
  • Crassula
  • Sedum
  • Graptosedum
Echeveria imbricata succulent plant specie
Echeveria Imbricata @milicientah

Reasons for Beheading Succulents

1. Fixing Etiolated Succulents

Succulents come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some look like stones, others resemble some animals, while others will simply blow your mind away with their beauty. Their great variety makes the best aesthetics for the living room or office. (I can assure you, it keeps our office vibrant).

However, your beautiful succulent plant may begin to change its appearance due to several reasons. If you notice your succulent growing thin, tall, and looking stretched, then etiolation is taking root. You may also note that the plant looks paler than its usual color.

Their great variety makes the best aesthetics for the living room or office. (We can’t get enough of these modern planters).

An etiolated plant has been grown in insufficient light resulting in pale color or stretched appearance. Light is an essential component for photosynthesis to take place. Photosynthesis ensures the plant has enough carbohydrates or food to grow and perform primary metabolism. This explains why a succulent or any plant, in general, becomes weak and pale when there is insufficient light. Since plants cannot survive in insufficient light, they’ll sort of “move” and use mechanisms to get light.

Dying succulent plant
Dying Succulent Plant @mysuccastashwish

How do you tell if your succulent isn’t receiving enough light? There are four sure-fire signs of detecting etiolation in your succulents. Read more here!

As earlier indicated, etiolation can be corrected in its early stages. This is done by exposing the plants to bright light for a minimum of four hours daily. However, bent and stretched plants can never be corrected, sadly.

Beheading is a solution to save ugly, bent, and stretched plants. Chopping off the crown of your etiolated succulent and replanting it ensures you have a vigorous and beautiful succulent plant.

2. Revive Damaged Succulents

A succulent with a rotting stem or root can be salvaged by beheading. The beheaded crown is replanted while the remaining plant containing the rotting parts is discarded.

Don’t drown or deprive your succulent with the right amount of water, read our complete in-depth guide about when you should water your succulents to care for them properly.

3. Promote New Growth

Beheading succulents allow new growth for the plant. You can either propagate the cuttings or see the new growth at the place you cut. Your garden will thrive no matter what. Always sterilize the blade to keep the tree healthy and follow these propagation procedures thoroughly!

4. Propagation

The third reason for beheading your succulent is for propagation purposes. This is simply multiplying your plants through stem or leaf cuttings. Scientists call it asexual reproduction. Unlike leaf cutting, stem cutting or beheading propagation is quicker and has a higher success rate.

Not sure what is the best method? We have a propagation guide shared by over 2000 succulent lovers.

Beheading results in two plant parts: the crown and the stem. Both are used in propagation. The crown is replanted in a separate pot containing well-draining soil, and in a few days, it takes roots and becomes established. The stump is also replanted and in a few weeks, new baby plants begin to grow from its sides Once the baby plants become more extensive, carefully snip them off with a sterile knife and plant them individually.

What is the Best Time to Behead Succulents?

Timing is crucial when it comes to beheading succulents. The best time to carry out this exercise is during spring, just after winter. The reason for this is that at this time, your plants are out of their dormant state and are now starting to grow. In such a state, your succulents will develop resilience to beheading and be less susceptible to pests or shock.

Beheaded succulent plant
Beheaded Succulent Leaves @juicyplants

Beheading is always followed by growth, so avoid beheading your plants during winter as this is their dormancy period.

If you’re confused about what season a succulent plant is dormant, learn more about winter and summer succulents here.

How To Behead A Succulent Successfully

Tools you’ll need

  • Sharp and sterile scissors, shears, or knife
  • A trowel (Here’s an awesome 3-piece kit).
  • Succulent and cacti soil/potting mix. 
  • Extra containers
  • Garden gloves (in case you’re dealing with spiny varieties)
Beheading succulent plants
Succulent Beheading @juicyplants

Step 1: Ensure you have a sharp and sterilized cutting tool. This could be a pair of scissors, shears, or just a knife. You want it sharp because a blunt tool will crush the succulent making it harder for the plant to heal and develop roots.

A sharp cutting tool produces a clean, precise cut that heals quickly and roots effectively. Sterilization prevents the introduction of bacteria or fungi in the freshly cut wound of your succulent. You can quickly sterilize your tool with isopropyl alcohol. You can behead the plant while it’s still in the soil or pluck it out to get the right spot. Strip all the dead, dried leaves from the lower part of the stem.

Step 2: Decide on how much to cut off. Leaving an inch or two from the crown ensures that the plant will remain steady while planted and that it’ll also provide enough room for new roots to grow. Avoid jagged and diagonal cuts. Let the cut be precisely perpendicular to the stem. In case you mess up, don’t be shy to try a little higher on the stem.

Step 3: Congratulations! You just beheaded your first plant. Now leave the cuttings to dry and callous before you plant them. This is to avoid rot and bacterial infection on the freshly cut wound. Place them in a dry area with indirect sunlight and wait a week.

Step 4: Now it’s time to replant the cuttings. Stack some grainy soil in a pot and stick the beheaded crown in the soil. You can leave the stump or replant it in new soil.

Step 5: Place them in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. At this point, you might be tempted to water it, please don’t. That’s a recipe for failure. The beheaded top doesn’t need water right now for two reasons; one, it has enough water stored in its leaves, and two, it has not yet developed any roots to take up water from the soil.

Watering your plant immediately after planting your beheaded succulents is unnecessary and dangerous as it may result in rottings.

What’s next?

You may wonder, how will you know when to start watering your plants?

The simple answer is either as soon as roots form or when the stored water in the leaves is depleted. To check whether the roots have formed, gently tug the plant and check for resistance. Give it at least three weeks before you tug it.

Check for signs of wrinkling to determine whether your plant has depleted its water reserves. The amount of time your plant takes to drain its water storage will most likely equal the time taken for rooting.

Once you notice these signs, start watering your plant like any other succulent. Give it a good drench and wait for the soil to dry out before doing so again.

After the plant is established, gradually introduce it to direct sunlight but be careful not to subject it to sunburn. (Yes, even succulents get sunburn).

It will take 4 to 6 weeks for the stump to develop baby plants and the beheaded top to be well-rooted.

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Final Words

Enjoyed learning about Beheading Succulents? If so, you’ll enjoy the ebook about Replanting Practices to Keep Your Succulents Safe. With this ebook, you’ll find more detailed answers to help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works best to grow your succulents.

There you have it! How to behead succulents the right way wasn’t so scary, was it? Let us know how your succulents grow after beheading here on our exclusive Facebook group, Succulent City Plant Lounge.

15 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide On Beheading Succulents

  1. Hello! I know I’m commenting on probably a two year old post here, but I figured there’s perhaps no harm in asking. At the most, this question might just not be seen! I’ve been going through your guide for the past few days – I just beheaded my first succulent ever (a Graptosedum! So scary this is!), and I was wondering – I understood the watering schedule for the beheaded top and the stalks, but what about the stump with the roots? When ought one start watering that, post-chop chopping?

  2. You can absolutely fix a bent stem without beheading the plant! That is just pure bologna. Just turn the plant around so that the crown is facing away from the window and the plant will bend back to its original position. Continue to turn it every couple of days or just move it to a brighter window after it has corrected itself and it will be just fine.

  3. You cut the head from the stem leaving 2 to 3 inches WHEN

    Do you dig up the plant or do you cut the stem close to the dirt and replant the stem leaving the plant in the dirt?

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